Gun Laws & Legislation

HOOBER: There’s Probably A Word In German For That – ATF Bans A Trigger By Calling It A Machine Gun

REUTERS/Munish Byala

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By Sam Hoober

You know how there are words in German for specific ideas or feelings that English doesn’t?

Like schadenfreude. “Shameful joy,” feeling happy about something you shouldn’t, such as someone else’s misery. Or treppenwitz, which is where you think of a snappy comeback after the fact.

The best thing you could say in German is “Ich wollen ein dunkel, bitte,” but that’s a topic for another time.

What we could use a word for is when a rule is stupid, but you knew it was going to get you in trouble anyway. As rotten as it is to think it, the ATF has created just such a situation.

The ATF has declared the Rare Breed FRT-15 trigger to be a machine gun, which Rare Breed Firearms has responded to by suing the ATF.

If you haven’t heard of it, the Rare Breed FRT-5 is a “forced reset trigger,” a drop-in trigger pack for AR-15 rifles that has a buffer assembly on the back of the trigger that essentially bumps the trigger back into reset before the trigger actually resets.


The practical effect is that the trigger is bumped forward while the user is still depressing it.

This differs from an actual full auto sear, because a full auto sear doesn’t re-engage the disconnector when full-auto mode is selected; the hammer follows as the bolt returns to battery.

With the FRT-15, the hammer is fully recocked, rather than brought to full-cock by the cycling of the bolt and dropping as the bolt cycles. It’s just that it resets faster than most humans can pull the trigger.

In essence, it’s the same action as a bump stock; it’s just that the mechanism is internal (bumping the trigger forward) rather than external.

Now, we all know what happened here.

Somebody figured out a very clever way around the ATF’s definition of a “machine gun” and created a product that let anyone with an AR platform rifle the ability to get their own taste of the giggle switch.

The ATF, emboldened in recent years by President Trump and now President Biden’s willingness to come down on lawful gun owners, has decided to not even follow their own rules and try to put another member of the firearms industry out of business.

And anyone that’s claiming to be surprised is either naïve or lying.

On the one hand, it’s idiotic that we have a prohibition against civilians purchasing newly-manufactured machine guns. The reality is and has been for a very long time that people who purchase firearms legally generally don’t commit crimes with them.

It’s not like the streets would be flooded with cheap machine guns or SMGs, either. Even before the NFA of 1934, only the FBI and Al Capone could afford to buy one, let alone actually use one much.

For those who don’t know, building a gun that not only has the full auto sear but can actually withstand full-auto fire is not cheap. The typical Anderson or PSA gun is going to break and at that right soon if Cletus’s budget upper gets dropped onto a full-auto lower.

Don’t believe it? Here it is straight from the horse’s mouth from Battlefield Vegas, the full-auto range that everyone likes to go to in Las Vegas. Even the Gucci-tier ARs (LMT, Knight’s, Daniel Defense if you consider them Gucci) break parts fairly easily when subjected to a full-auto diet.

Point being, even if they were legal, full-auto anything is basically going to be a rich person’s toy.

So it’s not like Rare Breed Triggers or any of the manufacturers of binary triggers are equipping cartels or militias for war in the streets or government takeovers.

These devices are made so Bubba can send an entire case of Tula into the berm. Let’s be real; that’s what they’re used for. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s what they’re being used for.

On the other hand, what we know about the federal government is that they do not take kindly to being defied, even if you’re trying to play by their own rules.

The thing about loopholes is that they will figure out how to close them eventually, unless the loopholes in question benefit lobbyists that are paid up with the right member or enough members of congress.

So on the one hand, we can expect more of this. They’re starting to crack down on arm braces. They’re going after the gimmick faux-auto triggers. Not because they’re being used in crimes, but because they’re a way around the rules.

One wonders if the ATF doesn’t have some real crimes that they could be looking into.

Sam Hoober is a hunter and shooter based in the Inland Northwest.